A night bursting with conversations over beer, pizza and fried pepper while the Brass Munkeys performs some fine fusion of blues and jazz in the background, is a hands down great night to stay awake till 4:00 am. It is with difficulty level of 8 to gather drinking mates from my travel junky circle of friends since most of the time, others are away hitchhiking a ride to a mountain town, while some are getting drunk in a pub district of a South East Asian city. This is where the organizational skills of Gaye Emami comes in handy operating like a mind controller in setting up this meet-up to welcome a poet-slash-nurse friend from Australia, and aside from knitting all our schedule together, she came up with a great suggestion for a venue: TAGO Jazz Cafe.
Rain was the star backpacker of the night. She just came from Australia with her hubby a week prior and was fresh off a 10 hour bus ride from a few days of adventure all over Ilocos Norte. Her schedule after our group rendezvous in TAGO includes romping stomping in places like Banaue, Sagada, Iligan, Cebu and El Nido. Something every balikbayan should do every time they go back to the Philippines and not limit themselves to an adobo lunch at Villa Escudero. I met up with Gaye, Kaiye, Melo, Gino (a dead-ringer to balladeer Jay-R) and Jerik at Gateway Mall because as Gaye told us, we need to saunter a couple of kilometers from Gateway going to the venue.
She has been raving about this place since I last saw her at the Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms and Smash Mouth throwback concert at Araneta months ago. When I don't have any trips I usually stay at home and only goes out when I meet out with friends. Part of the charm of having long nights with friends is to hang out in joints such as TAGO, where the environment yells of inventive freedom and inhabited by presences that shares a similar penchant for great music. You just have to be yourself without having to come with a wad of cash to have a dandy of a time. I've had my phase of the club scene for a brief time a few years after college and I don't intend to relive that period. The Chug Chug Chug days in Pier One, Decades where I and my friends would just stand up and wait for an opportune time to lock eye to eye contact with a girl. You can get lucky a few times but that was it, nothing beats a sit down chat with non-strangers in a homey place like saGuijo, Route 196, 70's Bistro, Boho Sarapsody Bistro, Turtle's Nest (Cebu) and TAGO Jazz Cafe.
Slowly our number begins to increase from a party of six into a baker's dozen, I don't remember the order in which they arrived but before the turn of midnight we were joined by Rain and her husband Jonat, Claire and her beau the Talented Mr. Smiley, Rem, Darwin, Dennis and Julius. With each trying to out-talk out loud and out-giggle each other against superb blasting live music from the Brass Munkeys, that includes a rendition of the instrumental James Bond theme, a moment that shut us up just listening to them finish that song, the usual traveler's talk of "where are you heading next?", "things to do when sober in Kathmandu", "flirting encounters in mixed dorms in South East Asia" stuff like that are the usual topics over beer.
There were free foods that night as I understand it was the Brass Munkeys vocalist's farewell performance and a year-ender party rolled into one night. Regular customers brought pancit, pizza and spring rolls. So it was like attending a gig at someone else's house where the neighbors do not complain about loud music. The night went on with more fluid travel conversation, romance-on-the-road confession and good music highlighted by an awesome horn section. We called it a night only after Rain and Jonat said their goodbyes at around 2am since they still have an early flight to Iligan to catch. I went home with a semi-dizzy head, a signed Jessica Zafra Twisted book courtesy of Melo, an LSS of that wicked James Bond theme rendition by the Munkeys and another great memory with cool friends in an equally cool place. Oh shit, I forgot to pay my share of our tab. I heard Rain and Gaye settled the bill for our group. Oh well, charge it to drunkenness.
To those interested at checking out this place, just check on the map below and do not worry it ain't far and a mere walking distance from Farmer's Cubao. All images courtesy of TAGO Jazz Cafe Facebook Page.